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Another national embarrassment

Melvin B. Miller
Another national embarrassment
“No, Donald. Africa is a continent.”

Many Americans think of Africa as a country. This misunderstanding is acceptable from the average citizen, but it is intolerable for Donald Trump or any chief of state. Africa is a continent, not a country. In fact, Africa has a land mass that is almost three times greater than the U.S. Within Africa are 54 sovereign nations with a total population of more than 1.2 billion, 3.79 times greater than the U.S. population.

At a recent meeting to discuss changes in the U.S. immigration law, Trump was reported to have said that he did not want immigrants from “shithole” countries like Africa, Haiti and El Salvador. With this insulting remark, Trump demonstrated his ignorance of geography and history as well as his commitment to racial bigotry.

Trump had reasonably expressed an interest in establishing an immigration policy that would set a merit requirement for America. A major indication of that standard is the education level of immigrants. Consistent with this goal, data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate a high level of education among African immigrants from 2008-2012. While about 33 percent of Americans have bachelor’s degrees, the rate is 41.5 percent among all African immigrants.

Some immigrants coming from African countries have almost twice the education level of Americans. Those immigrants with very high numbers of college graduates are from Egypt (63.9 percent), Nigeria (60.9 percent) and South Africa (57.3 percent). However, almost all of the immigrants from those countries would be classified as black in America. That is what seems to be the limiting qualification.

Apparently Trump also plans to restrict immigration from Haiti, a small Caribbean nation that is the world’s oldest black republic. Haiti was a French colony that provided sugar, coffee and cotton for Europe with slave labor; but in 1793 Toussaint L’Ouverture, a freed slave, led the revolution against French colonialism.

After the death of L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe battled Napoleon’s army and inflicted such losses that Napoleon was forced to sign the Louisiana Purchase that sold France’s North American properties to the United States. So former African slaves in Haiti defeated Napoleon, induced him to sell Louisiana to the U.S., and established one of the earliest republics in the Western Hemisphere. Despite these achievements, their African roots cause Haitians to lose respect from Trump.

Africans and Haitians have already contributed to the nation’s progress as American citizens. It is imprudent to allow bigotry to foreclose this valued source of immigrants.

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